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In the Blink of an Eye: Relating Positive-Feedback Sensitivity to Striatal Dopamine D2-Like Receptors through Blink Rate

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For >30 years, positron emission tomography (PET) has proven to be a powerful approach for measuring aspects of dopaminergic transmission in the living human brain; this technique has revealed important relationships between dopamine D2-like receptors and dimensions of normal behavior, such as human impulsivity, and psychopathology, particularly behavioral addictions. Nevertheless, PET is an indirect estimate that lacks cellular and functional resolution and, in some cases, is not entirely pharmacologically specific. To identify the relationships between PET estimates of D2-like receptor availability and direct in vitro measures of receptor number, affinity, and function, we conducted neuroimaging and behavioral and molecular pharmacological assessments in a group of adult male vervet monkeys. Data gathered from these studies indicate that variation in D2-like receptor PET measurements is related to reversal-learning performance and sensitivity to positive feedback and is associated with in vitro estimates of the density of functional dopamine D2-like receptors. Furthermore, we report that a simple behavioral measure, eyeblink rate, reveals novel and crucial links between neuroimaging assessments and in vitro measures of dopamine D2 receptors.

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